The Lusaka Magistrates’ Court has set October 31 as date for hearing the State’s response to the preliminary issues raised by the defence on why Lusaka based magistrate Maggie Tantameni should not be tried by a fellow magistrate in a theft case.

Magistrate Tantameni is jointly charged with a public prosecutor from the National Prosecutions Authority Francis Mphanza and two court officials for allegedly stealing 34 Kilograms of ephedrine valued at K1, 870.000, property of government.

The matter was however adjourned yesterday due to the absence of the second accused, Mphanza who had recently lost his wife.

At the last sitting, magistrate Tantameni through her lawyer, had asked the court to refer her case to the Constitutional Court in order to determine whether she can be tried by a court of equal jurisdiction.

Her lawyer, Prosper Muyatwa had submitted that the Constitutional Court should render it’s opinion on whether the principal resident magistrate Kenneth Mulife, who is the complainant in this matter on behalf of the judiciary, can allocate the case to a Chisamba based magistrate Susan Mangalashi, who was also a magistrate like her.

“This honourable court has similar authority as accused number three and for this court to try A3 on matters she dwelt with during the course of her duties as a magistrate will be a gross assault to the course of justice,” he said.

And when the matter came up for a response from the State before magistrate Mangalashi, Wednesday, the defence asked for an adjournment saying the second accused person was absent in court because he had a bereavement.

“Accused number two is not before court because he has a bereavement. He lost his wife and burial took place yesterday. It is because of these unforeseen circumstances that we seek for an adjournment so that A2 will be present before this court,” the defence said.

The State did not object to the adjournment saying the circumstances were indeed unforeseen.

They however made an application to add another prosecutor to their team.

“My learned colleague Mr D Manda will be joining in prosecuting the matter,” they submitted.

Asked if there was anyone one else the parties wished to add to their teams, the State said they were yet to add two more although only one was present in court whereas the other one was yet to confirm.

The matter has been adjourned to October 31 for a response.

In this matter, Tantameni is jointly charged with Felix Mkandawire a court interpreter, Francis Mphanza a senior public prosecutor and Didie Kangwa a senior clerk of court with three counts of abuse of authority, removal of property under lawful seizure and stealing by persons in public service.

In count one, it is alleged that Tantameni and Mphanza on November 8, last year, in Lusaka being persons employed in the public service as margistrate and senior public prosecutor respectively, jointly and whilst acting together, did use the position of their respective offices to obtain property, profit or benefit for themselves or another.

In count two, it is alleged that Mkandawire, Mphanza and Kangwa on November 8, last year in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together knowingly and with intent to hinder or defeat the process, did conceal 34.0 kilograms of ephedrine valued at K1, 870. 000. The ephedrine was taken under the process of authority of the court of Tantameni.

And in the third count, it is alleged that Mkandawire,Mphanza, Tantameni and Kangwa between November 8, 2017 and December 30, 2017 in Lusaka, being employed in the public service as court interpreter, senior public prosecutor, magistrate and senior clerk of court respectively, jointly and whilst acting together did steal 34. 0 kilograms of ephedrine. The drug was valued at K1, 870.000 the property of Government of the Republic of Zambia which came into their possession by virtue of their employment.